Athletics

Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season

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Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Final Cut: 2012 Oakland A's, the story of Oaklands incredible 2012 season, debuts Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Tony La Russa described it simply as "the feeling." It's the state of an MLB clubhouse that won't be defeated, that believes -- knows -- they will pull out a win when they need it no matter the odds.

As the 2012 MLB season wound to a close, Bob Melvin -- who joined La Russa as the only A's skippers to garner Manager of the Year honors -- had his Oakland Athletics playing with "the feeling."

NEWS: Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year

The A's became the first team ever to claim a division title after trailing by five games with nine to play. With his team seemingly peaking at the right time, the Game 5 ALDS loss that ended Oakland's season was a shocker to the manager.

"We really didn't think the season would end on that particular day," Melvin said. "It ended way too soon for us."

The 2013 campaign is just a few months around the corner, and Melvin still has two years remaining on his three-year contract to re-kindle that feeling in Oakland.

The front office team that employs Melvin -- Billy Beane (general manager), David Forst (assistant general manager), Farhan Zaidi (director of baseball operations) and Dan Feinstein (director of professional scoutingbaseball development) -- is plenty pleased with the decision to hire Melvin, and extend him through 2014.

"Bringing him in about a year and a half ago was the best decision we've made for this organization in a long time," Forst stated confidently.

It's an easy angle to take in the aftermath of the A's 2012 season. But things looked bleak when Melvin took over for Bob Geren in June of 2011. The A's were 27-36 and on target for their fifth year without a winning season.

"This is going to be quite a challenge," Melvin recalled thinking. He didn't hold that sentiment long, though. "Within a couple weeks I really felt like I belonged."

But belonging and succeeding are two entirely different beasts. Melvin entered the All-Star break of his first full season in Oakland with a 43-43 record -- impressive considering the preseason expectations, but still a distant nine games from the AL West-leading Rangers.

The road ahead didn't look any easier as the A's eyed a second-half schedule that opened with the Twins, Rangers and Yankees in succession.

That's when it all changed.

Oakland swept the Twins in Minnesota, scoring 24 runs on nine home runs in the three-game series that set the tone for a monster second half. They went 8-1 against the perennial playoff contenders, giving them every indication that if they stayed hot, playoffs were not out of the question.

"That's when the power started to show up across the board," Melvin said. "We felt like we were a different team. We knew we could hold you down, we just weren't sure if we could score enough.

"When we left, I went, 'Hey, something is going on here.'"

The A's showed time and time again that they could score enough, and something was going on in Oakland. Down the stretch, it didn't seem to matter who was at the plate; from Stephen Drew to George Kottaras, they were getting the job done.

Nobody hit like the A's after the All-Star break. They led the majors with 112 home runs and 394 runs scored.

Highlighting his faith in the front office decisions, Melvin said that he stopped bothering to argue with the brain trust over personnel choices.

"By the end of the season," Melvin joked, "I was like, 'Alright, whoever. Just tell me who we got. We'll bring 'em in and make it work.'"

It seemed like a disengaged message from a man who, minutes earlier, explained that the organization had a plan for everything. But that's what made Melvin so effective. He was able to focus all his attention on his lone goal as manager.

"We just played for the day," Melvin said.

The day-by-day approach is made easier when you have your dream job. Melvin, a Bay Area native who has attended his fair share of games at the Coliseum, said he still gets "that feeling" every time he dons the Green and Gold.

Oakland Phenomenon:

On the day he was personally recognized as the best manager in the American League, it was his team's influence on the local culture that afforded Bob Melvin his most fulfilling moment.

"I'm most proud of what we did to invigorate the city," Melvin said.

As the A's bee-lined for the AL West title, the Coliseum rocked.

RATTO: Award validates Melvin's exemplary work

Recalling what stood out in a plenty-memorable season, Melvin couldn't get past the fans Oct. 11 reaction after the magical run finally dead ended in the ALDS.

"The fans giving us a curtain call -- they wouldn't leave," Melvin recalled. "I don't think I've ever seen that before. Detroit's trying to celebrate on the field and they're looking around like, 'What the heck is going on here, you guys are supposed to be leaving in a bad mood.' And it wasn't the case. It was pretty celebratory.

"One of the things that was -- for me -- the most special of all of this was that we really did re-energize an area."

With ownership hesitant to invest in Oakland, A's fans have grown a reputation in the league for not showing up. But down the stretch, local and opposing players couldn't help but respect the chaos of a lit-up Coliseum. With two more years on Melvin's contract, the A's boy-band popularity could quite easily return.

"When you get a full house here, it is electric," Melvin said. "There wasn't a ballpark that we played in this year that was louder than our ballpark at the end of the season."

Two Leagues? No Problem:

When Melvin and Davey Johnson were named 2012 Managers of the Year, they immediately accounted for 33 percent of the individuals who accomplished the feat in both American and National Leagues.

"I think that was probably the one thing that was most special about winning the individual award, being able to do it in both leagues."

Melvin always thought managing in the NL was more difficult, but acknowledged the decision of when to pull a starter is more pivotal in the AL.

"I would hate to get stereotyped as a guy who couldn't manager in one league or the other," Melvin said.

His inclusion on this list pretty much guarantees he won't:

Tony La Russa-- CHW, OAK, STL
Bobby Cox-- TOR, ATL
Lou Piniella -- SEA, CHC
Jim Leyland -- PIT, DET
Davey Johnson -- BAL, WSH
Bob Melvin -- ARI, OAK

"Honored":

If you thought Bob Melvin was sleeping when he was named AL Manager of the Year Tuesday on MLB Network, you were wrong. He certainly wasn't comfortable, either.

"I was in a little tiny room," Melvin said. "I was about as claustrophobic as I could be. I think toward the end I just wanted to get out of the room.

"I didn't care who won."

For fans who waited through multiple commercial breaks to see the winner announced, Melvin said he had no indication of when he was on camera, and acknowledged that he assumed he wasn't when his opponent Buck Showalter was talking. He was.

"The lead in probably is a bit much," Melvin said of the production. "But it really validated the type of the season that we had. (These awards) are more about the organization than anything."

A's find two bright spots in tough shutout loss to Astros

A's find two bright spots in tough shutout loss to Astros

HOUSTON — Some losses go down tougher than others, and that’s true for Bob Melvin whether it’s April or whether it’s August and his team is playing out the string.

The body language and demeanor said it all for the A’s manager Saturday after a 3-0 loss to the Astros, in which Oakland didn’t advance a single runner past second base.

Houston right-hander Collin McHugh brought a 4.88 ERA into the game over five starts since returning from a shoulder injury. He wound up celebrating his first victory of 2017 after six stellar innings.

“He threw the ball good, (but) I expected us to score some runs tonight,” Melvin said.

The A’s were done in by five ground-ball double plays, including a game-ending 5-4-3 job from Ryon Healy, which was reversed on replay review after Healy initially was called safe.

“Those things are killers,” catcher Bruce Maxwell said. “It just didn’t roll our way today.”

So the A’s (53-70) were left to pick through the scraps of this one to find some silver linings, and there were a couple.

Kendall Graveman held Houston to two runs over six innings, and the damage off him came on a two-run single from Marwin Gonzalez that glanced off the glove of second baseman Jed Lowrie. It was the second strong outing in a row for Graveman, who’s now got four starts under his belt since returning from his second stint on the disabled list this season for shoulder issues.

Most encouraging from his standpoint was he didn’t really have his best stuff, yet still managed to limit an opponent that leads the majors in every significant offensive category, including runs, batting average and homers.

“I think it’s the first one where I’ve been back when I had to kind of pitch and grind through,” said Graveman (3-4). “I didn’t have my best stuff. It’s just one of those where you’ve got to get out there and compete.”

The highlight of the game for the A’s came when center fielder Boog Powell unleashed a strike to home plate that nailed Alex Bregman trying to score from second on Jose Altuve’s single in the fifth.

Maxwell barely had to move his mitt to apply the tag, and count the A’s catcher as the most surprised person in the ballpark that Powell even gave him a chance on the play.

“It caught me off guard,” Maxwell admitted. “I haven’t played with Powell in a long time. I didn’t expect there to be that big of a play at home. He was fairly deep in the outfield as well.”

Powell, a 24-year-old rookie who was acquired from Seattle for Yonder Alonso, said he’s worked on his throwing in the minors in recent seasons.

“I didn’t (have a good arm) back in the day,” Powell said. “I’m definitely improving my arm strength. I pride myself on getting the ball out as quick as I can.”

It’s the kind of play that sticks in the memory bank as Powell tries to make his mark in the wide open battle to be the A’s center fielder in 2018. His throw to ring up Bregman was at least one moment from Saturday night that gave Melvin reason to smile.

“He can play the outfield, no doubt about it,” Melvin said. “It was a big play at the time, and it should give you a little momentum to go back out there and do a little better offensively.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 3-0 loss in Houston

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 3-0 loss in Houston

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON — The A’s pitching staff endured a rough series against Kansas City to finish out the last homestand.

Go figure that Oakland arrived in Houston to start a six-game road trip, and it’s the offense that has been non-existant. The Astros blanked the A’s 3-0 on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, negating a strong effort from right-hander Kendall Graveman.

Through 18 innings of this series, the A’s have advanced exactly one runner as far as third base. That came Friday night on Matt Joyce’s eighth-inning homer, accounting for the only run scored by Oakland so far in Houston.

Getting runners on base wasn’t really the tough part Saturday. Grounding into five double plays was what did them in offensively. It was fitting that the game ended on a replay overturn that gave the Astros’ a 5-4-3 double play on Ryon Healy’s grounder to end it. Healy originally was ruled safe.

GRAVEMAN ROUNDING INTO FORM: In his fourth start back from a shoulder injury, Graveman built on his previous outing when he beat the Baltimore Orioles. He went six innings Saturday and gave up two runs. The only damage off him came with the bases loaded in the fourth. Marwin Gonzalez hit a sharp grounder to the left of second baseman Jed Lowrie. The ball glanced off his glove, allowing two runners to score. It was ruled a two-run single, but it appeared a makable play that should have resulted in at least one out for Graveman.

BREGMAN STRIKES AGAIN: Astros third baseman homered for the second time in two nights. His solo shot off Ryan Dull in the eighth added some breathing room for Houston.

FAMILIAR FACE: Former Athletic Tyler Clippard, who the Astros just recently acquired, finished out the ninth to close it out.

SHOWING OFF THE ARM: Houston had a chance to build on its two-run lead in the fifth, but A’s center fielder Boog Powell made an on-the-money throw to the plate to nail Bregman, who tried to score from second on Jose Altuve’s single. Powell got the ball to the plate on the fly, with catcher Bruce Maxwell simply having to apply the tag. The Astros challenged the call but it stood upon replay review.

SHOWING OFF THE ARM, PART II: Khris Davis’ name doesn’t often appear under this subhead, but the A’s left fielder nearly threw out Astros speedster George Springer as he legged out a double in the third. Actually, Davis should have gotten the assist as the throw beat him to the bag. But Springer was safe on a nifty slide to avoid Jed Lowrie’s tag. Davis fielded the liner off a ricochet from the left field wall, then made one of his strongest throws in an A’s uniform. It’s worth noting that since Davis wrote a story in The Players Tribune, detailing the mental battles he endures with his outfield throwing, his throws have actually appeared to be stronger.